How to Improve Piano Finger Dexterity
Get your finger movements more fluid on piano
Last Updated: November 2023 | 2112 words (10 – 12 minute read)
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In this short guide, we’ll get into some techniques you can use to improve the dexterity of your fingers when playing the piano.
That means you’ll be able to use your fingers much more fluidly and freely to reach all the notes you need to with more ease.
We’ll start with some basic stretches, then get into some exercises you can use that will increase piano finger dexterity. Finally we’ll share some tips that will help your fingers out even more.
Lucky for you, it’s absolutely possible to train better finger dexterity.
If you want to really get better at playing piano, though, you should consider taking online piano lessons.
Let’s get right into it…
Article Table of Contents
- 1 Step 1 – Start With Stretches
Audio Version of Article
Now that you’re familiar with how to practice the piano (from our last guide), it’s very useful to get your overall fingers moving more fluidly so you can practice more effectively.
Step 1 – Start With Stretches
Before you start to play the piano you need to “warm up” as if you were about to exercise.
The best thing to do is to stretch you fingers and wrist to increase blood flow and get things more loose and relaxed.
Do these stretches daily, even on days you aren’t playing or practicing piano.
Fist Clenches & Wiggles
- With an open palm, spread your fingers as wide as possible
- Slowly curl your fingers towards your palm to form a fist (not too tight)
- Slowly release the fist, spreading your fingers back out as wide as possible
- Repeat 15 – 20 times
- Wiggle out all your fingers individually (don’t just shake your entire hand)
- Repeat with your other hand
This movement will help loosen up your fingers and your hand as a whole.
Rested Finger Pulls
- Place your elbow and arm flat on a table while seated
- Point your fingers towards the ceiling
- With your other hand’s fingers, gently pull your thumb back towards you a bit (don’t go overboard)
- Hold that for 20 seconds
- Let go, and do the same to your index finger, hold for 20 seconds
- Repeat with the rest of your fingers, individually
- Now pull back all your fingers (excluding thumb) at the same time.
- Hold that for 20 seconds.
- Finish off with a couple of quick fist clenches and wiggles
- Switch hands and do steps 1-8 with your other hand’s fingers
This particular stretch is great to loosen up the muscles in your fingers and wrists. It’s especially useful when done right before you start playing piano.
This movement is essentially the opposite of the rested finger pulls above, but done without keeping your arm on a table.
- Spread your fingers out naturally (not extra-wide)
- Gently push your thumb down towards your inner palm
- Hold for 20 seconds
- Next, gently push your index finger down towards your palm and hold
- Repeat that for the rest of your fingers
- Finish off with a couple of quick fist clenches and wiggles
- Switch to your other hand and repeat.
— Related Content: How to Play Piano by Ear —
Step 2 – Piano Exercises to Improve Finger Dexterity
Now let’s actually sit down at our pianos and start doing some exercises. These are great piano practice routines that you should do on a regular basis, especially before you begin to play a piano song.
You only need to do 5-15 minutes of these exercises per day to see a big improvement in your finger dexterity.
***Note: Remember to ALWAYS do these exercises with a metronome or a click-track. It’s the best way to get better at piano finger movements.
5-Tone Up and Down
The first exercise is a pretty straight forward one.
We’re going to use our five fingers to play the first five tones of a piano scale, upwards and then back down again.
You can use any scale, but we’ll demonstrate it here with the C Major Scale.
- Set a metronome to 70 bpm using a 4/4 time signature and start it
- Rest your right hand’s fingers on the first 5 notes of C Major (C, D, E, F, G), one finger per key starting with your right hand’s thumb on C
- Rest your left hand’s fingers on the first 5 notes of C Major, two octaves below, one finger per key starting with your right hand’s pinky on C
- Start the exercise with your RIGHT HAND ONLY
- Play each note using ONLY the finger that’s resting on it to the metronome click (i.e. using quarter notes) upwards
- Once you hit the G note (with your pinky), move back downwards by next hitting the F note (with your ring finger) and moving on to the rest of the fingers until you’ve hit the C note (with your thumb)
- Then immediately move back upwards by next hitting the D note (with your index finger) and so on.
- You want to repeat that pattern – upwards and downwards – for 8 measures/bars (4 full repeats) before finally ending with your thumb on the C note, at the start of the 9th measure.
- Next, repeat steps 5 – 8 using your LEFT HAND ONLY
- Repeat this whole exercise 3-5 times.
Once you’ve gotten good at doing this exercise on both hands using only quarter notes at 70 bpm, try using eighth notes at 70 bpm (two notes per metronome click) and finally sixteenth notes (4 notes per metronome click) at 70 bpm.
Then when you’re good at that, you can try increasing the metronome’s bpm.
5-Tone Alternating Fingers
This exercise is a lot trickier than the one above, but it works wonders on your finger dexterity for piano.
It may seem confusing at first, and you WILL DEFINITELY mess up (especially at first) so just take it slow and keep practicing.
What we are doing is using those same five notes but this time, instead of going all the way up and down in a row, we’re alternating 2 notes at a time.
Here’s the thing to remember…
Each finger is ONLY allowed to play the key that it is resting on. That means ONLY the THUMB plays C. ONLY the index finger plays D, etc. Don’t move your fingers around to hit keys other than the one it is resting on.
- Set a metronome to 60 bpm (trust me)
- Rest your fingers on the first 5 notes of C Major, like in the previous exercise
- Start with your right hand
- Using quarter notes (one key per metronome click), alternate between your thumb hitting C and your index finger hitting D for eight (8) counts -> C, D, C, D, C, D, C, D
- Immediately after, alternate between your middle finger hitting E and your index finger hitting D for 8 more counts -> E, D, E, D, E, D, E, D
- Next, alternate between your middle finger hitting E and your ring finger hitting F for 8 more counts -> E, F, E, F, E, F, E, F
- Now alternate between your pinky hitting the G and your ring finger hitting the F for 8 counts -> G, F, G, F, G, F, G, F
- Reverse the direction, alternating between your middle finger hitting E and your ring finger hitting the F note for 8 counts -> E, F, E, F, E, F, E, F
- Next, alternate between your middle finger hitting the E note and your index finger hitting the D note 8 times -> E, D, E, D, E, D, E, D
- Finally, alternate between your thumb hitting the C note and your index hitting the D note 8 times -> C, D, C, D, C, D, C, D
- End off by hitting the C note one last time with your thumb
- Repeat this entire thing with your LEFT hand – in the reverse finger order (i.e. starting with your left hand pinky on C and left hand ring finger on D)
I know, it’s kind of confusing. But once you put it into practice it’ll make more sense.
Once you’re good using quarter notes at 60 bpm, you can start using quicker notes or speeding up the metronome.
Again, do this with both hands a few times every day and it’ll work wonders on your dexterity for piano.
— Related Content: How to Play Piano Chords —
Tips to Better Finger Dexterity on Piano
Now that you have a few piano finger stretches and dexterity exercises you can practice daily (and here’s some more), let’s talk about some general things you can do to get better finger movement.
Really, anything you can do to increase the fluidity of your finger movements is going to help you become a better piano player.
Wear Gloves in the Cold
Seriously, arthritis is no joke. If you’re in cold weather, always wear gloves outside and keep your fingers nice and warm.
Too much cold exposure can lead to stiffness in your fingers, making them much harder to move quickly and fluidly.
And that can also lead to arthritis down the line, where it’s much more difficult to move your fingers (sometimes, at all…).
So be careful out there.
Do the Stretches Daily
This is an easy one. Those finger and wrist stretches you read about earlier?
Do them daily.
Get Your Posture and Placement Right
The thing about playing piano is that the more your force yourself to use ideal technique, the better you’re able to play.
That means you want to make sure your posture is good – sit upright and tall.
Make sure your piano is at a good height where you elbow is making a 90-degree angle to reach your hands to the keys.
Make sure your wrists are straight (not bent) when your fingers are on the piano.
That “ideal” technique will make it easier for your fingers to move how and where they need to in order to play more difficult passages and songs.
Don’t Over-Play or Over-Practice
Put another way, TAKE BREAKS.
You don’t want to play or practice any instrument for too long, because that can lead to injury.
And if while you’re playing or practicing you feel any strain, take a quick breather and shake out your fingers, wrists, shoulders and elbows.
If you feel any pain at all, STOP playing, check your technique and see a doctor.
As far as your entire practice session goes, don’t bother practicing for any more than 90 minutes at a time.
You can do multiple 90 minute sessions, but space them out with a few hours between them.
Hanon piano exercises are the O.G. GOAT of finger dexterity work.
They’re a series of exercises that will take you from beginner to virtuoso. But it’ll take a lot of work and dedication because these exercises are HARD.
From the first one on, they are difficult and confusing finger movements, and the progressively get more difficult.
But the work absolute WONDERS in helping you become a master of finger movements for the piano.
It’s highly recommended you use hanon exercises once you’ve gotten pretty used to the two exercises on this page.
You can get the hanon exercises for free on this site.
Learn piano in a way that lets you improvise beautiful music on the spot!
Frequently Asked Questions
Finger dexterity is the ability to move your fingers in difficult ways, with fluidity and ease. It’s also the ability to achieve difficult finger positioning.
Finger dexterity is important for piano players so that they are able to play complex passages and songs fluidly. Many piano pieces contain finger movements which can be difficult to play if fingers are stiff or unable to move in fluidly in difficult ways.
Yes, you can improve finger dexterity by regularly stretching your hand and fingers and doing finger exercises. Exercises should be done daily, while stretching should also be done before sitting down to play the piano. It does not happen immediately, but will happen with a sufficient amount of time put in.
This isn’t something that you’re going to immediately improve overnight when you teach yourself piano.
Increasing your finger dexterity is something that is done over time. But it’s a pursuit that is well worth it for any aspiring player.
You need to put in the work and do it for days/weeks – if you do you’ll see major improvements to your ability to play difficult piano passages and songs.
The exercises and tips here will absolutely help you get more dexterity for your fingers. Feel free to bookmark this page for future reference.
Thanks for reading our beginner’s guide on how to improve piano finger dexterity!
Up next, check out some of our favorite piano training programs to level up your playing.
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